cover image Lipstick on a Pig: Winning in the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game

Lipstick on a Pig: Winning in the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game

Torie Clarke, . . Free Press, $26 (254pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-7116-5

A former Pentagon communications chief (2001–2003) tells how to deliver bad news, defuse scandal and build trusting relations with constituents and customers. While Clarke's book seems aimed at public officials and executives, her first piece of advice could serve just about anyone: "Deliver bad news yourself, and when you screw up, say so—fast!" If you don't, Clarke observes, aggressive reporters, resentful employees or the Internet will out you soon enough, and then you'll have to endure the pain of hearing others describe, and capitalize on, your mistake. The book's other suggestions are similarly worthy and familiar (know your audience, take chances, think outside the box). But the book's most interesting sections, in which Clarke describes her recent work for the Pentagon, are more memoir than how-to. She details, for example, the reasoning behind the department's decision to embed journalists during the Iraq invasion and the mechanics of putting that decision into action. The memoir/advice combination can get awkward at times—certainly, the volume would have been more compelling as a straight political book—and the connection between real life and the take-away lesson is sometimes loose. But overall Clarke has produced a solidly useful book. (Feb. 6)